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Extraordinary Meeting - Thursday 23 May 2024

Mackenzie District Council will decide on its draft budget for the next 10 years at an extraordinary meeting this Thursday.

In its Draft Long-Term Plan (LTP) 2024-34, the Council has set out a plan of ongoing investment across the district to improve, replace and construct the necessary infrastructure and facilities for the community. To achieve this, it proposes spending $415.58 million on operating and capital costs in the next 10 years, of which $244.35 million will be funded by rates.

The highest annual average rate increase proposed is 14.7% in the first year (2024-25) of the LTP, with the average annual rates increases 6.5% over the 10 years of the plan. Individual rates may have increased by more or less than the overall average depending on which services are received at a property and how much a property’s value has increased compared to others in the recent property valuations.

Mackenzie Mayor Anne Munro says preparing this draft LTP has been more challenging than usual due to inflation with large cost increases beyond the Council’s control and uncertainty over the Government’s response to the wide-ranging reforms and legislation affecting local government which were proposed by the previous administration. Although the Government has confirmed that the planning and delivery of three waters is returning to local councils, the details are still not known. “In the meantime, we have had no choice but to build in significant expenditure to upgrade critical water infrastructure,” she says.

Anne Munro says that in preparing the draft plan the council has spent countless hours considering how it can continue delivering the core services needed to ensure the Mackenzie district remains a great place to live while keeping costs as low as possible.

“We have had to make some very hard decisions about our priorities for the next 10 years and what this means for rate increases. We have produced a no-frills budget with an emphasis on funding the “must haves” rather that the “nice to haves,” she says.

“We have been very mindful of the need for prudent financial management, recognising that any rates increase will impact on household incomes, particularly those on fixed incomes, including pensioners, who are already feeling the financial pinch from a rise in the cost of living. It is also a tough year for the many ratepayers in the Mackenzie district who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods due to extremely dry conditions, depressed product prices and increased costs, some of which are incurred meeting new compliance standards. Tourism businesses had also been through a challenging three years owing to Covid-19, with their incomes only recently recovering following the return of visitors.

“As a council we recognise the financial pressures on our ratepayers and that it is not palatable or sustainable to keep increasing rates year on year.”

While local authorities throughout the country are facing similar challenges around inflation and uncertainty, Anne Munro says that the Mackenzie District Council’s situation is different in that it has a small population dispersed across a wide geographic location.  “The council’s challenges have always been balancing the rate take from a relatively small number of ratepayers against providing services over such a large area, the pressure of high visitor numbers on its infrastructure and compliance with standards such as those for drinking water,” she says.

“Servicing the higher visitor numbers is challenging for both logistical and financial reasons. For example, one of the questions we will be seeking public feedback on is how we manage the escalating costs of keeping our public toilets clean. We are making the Government aware of the need for assistance in funding costs linked to tourism which our ratepayers are currently bearing,” she says.

If the plan is formally adopted on Thursday, it will go out for public consultation the following day for a month until Sunday June 23.  Information will be available on the Council’s website at  letstalk.mackenzie.govt.nz > LTP24.

“As we grapple with many issues, we would love to have our residents feedback on our plan for the next decade before we confirm our finalised LTP in July,” Anne Munro says.

The Council is meeting to discuss the plan at the council offices, Fairlie at 5.00pm on Thursday 23 May.

Read the agenda and the draft documents here.